Sunday, March 26, 2017

New Rule : Put Up or Shut Up

djt's aides keep telling us that he's gone to one of his golfclubs for "meetings and phone calls." djt leaves after 4 1/2 hours (an average golf game lasts four hours - and he needs time to change), after being espied wearing golf togs (shoes, glove, gold slacks, polo shirt).   then we are NOT told who djt "met" with, or "called", let alone who he played with. Meanwhile the press is tucked away in a corner of the club.

New rule: the press is allowed to place 18 photographers, no audio recording equipment, at the golf club while djt is having "meetings and phone calls": one at each hole. (If the course is larger, say 27 holes, the photo pool gets larger.)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


It is expected that if the ACHA passes, it will do so with solely GOP votes, just as the ACA passed with just Dem votes. It wasn't always this way.

In late 1940 FDR had just won an unprecedented (and now unrepeatable) third term as President, with 55% of the popular vote and 85% of the Electoral vote. FDR proposed that the US should be the "Arsenal of Democracy," supplying the sole major country still in the fight (Great Britain and her Empire and Dominions) with the means to fight. He then proposed "Lend-Lease," to allow the increasingly destitute British to acquire weapons, ammunition, and materiel even without the means to pay.

The House voted on the bill in February:

                                      Aye               Nay
Democrats                    238                25

GOP                                24              135

The Senate voted in March:

Democrats                      49                 13

GOP                                10                 17

Apparently, back then, it was thought the representatives of the people, not the party leadership, should decide on important issues.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Excusing the inexcusable

The intelligence community has concluded that Putin ordered Russian hackers to influence the 2016 US Presidential election. At least seven members of the djt campaign, some at very senior levels then and now, met with Russian officials and attempted to hide those meetings, even while under oath.

The hacking, the dissemination of the stolen material, and possible collusion with a hostile foreign power in either the hacking or the dissemination raises serious questions about whether Moscow has gained undue influence over the US Executive. But many in the GOP and elsewhere, even on the left, wish to sweep it all under a rug.

The excuses offered that I have heard include:

1. "Well, doesn't the US do that to other countries? This is just payback."
2. "There's nothing illegal about seeking to influence voters."
3. "It's just another conspiracy theory/spy novel."
4. "I'm not the puppet, you're the puppet." (projection)
5. "This is more hyper-partisanship."
6. "The 'Deep State' just doesn't like ... (fill in the blank - Flynn, Putin, Russia, djt)."
7. "It'll all blow over. The real problem is the GOP is ... (another fill in the blank).
8. "If we investigate Republicans we can't attend to our agenda." 
9. "But Hillary! But DNC! But Bernie!" also "But Obama!" (deflection)
10. "The Government's collection of information showing the action, especially of links to Americans, was itself illegal, and that's the problem."
11. "It was a routine meeting(s), nothing to see here.”
12. “What he really meant to say was ...”

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Bigger Haystack

What's being missed in "Bowling Green massacre" story is what was reported at the time: In 2011, the FBI arrested two Iraqi refugees who were caught in a sting sending money to Al Qaeda (not planning an attack in the US). In 2013, ABC News reported: "Several dozen suspected terrorist bombmakers, including some believed to have targeted American troops, may have mistakenly been allowed to move to the United States as war refugees, according to FBI agents investigating the remnants of roadside bombs recovered from Iraq and Afghanistan."
That FBI belief led to reviewing the cases (identity, affiliation, etc) of 58,000 Iraqi refugees in this country. How many more arrests of suspected terrorists by the FBI or any law enforcement occurred? Zero are reported, six years later. It would appear that the vetting was already, shall we say, extreme - an error rate of 0.0017 %. And remember, the error was caught by domestic law enforcement, and before any harm occurred.
Meanwhile, the new policy is leading to large numbers of false positives: doctors, patients, prominent news producers, five year US citizens, the former Prime Minister of Norway. Rule of thumb: if you increase the size of the haystack, the chance of missing the needle goes up.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Wag the Dog, Part II - The Media Copies Each Other's Exam Papers

USA Today, 1/29/17: "In one of three executive actions Saturday, President Trump reshuffled the National Security Council to include his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, and limited the roles of the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."
BBC: "The director of national intelligence and the joint chiefs will attend when discussions pertain to their areas. Under previous administrations, the director and joint chiefs attended all meetings of the NSC's inner circle, the principals' committee."

WaPo: "
That memo also states that the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will sit on the principals committee only when the issues to be discussed pertain to their “responsibilities and expertise.” In the previous two administrations, both were included as regular attendees."

Ok, here's the relevant sentence from the 2009 and 2017 memos:

"The Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as statutory advisers to the NSC, shall attend NSC meetings."
"The Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as statutory advisers to the NSC, shall also attend NSC meetings."
Quick: Which is the 2009 memo, and which is from 2017? Bonus points - what is the difference, and what is its effect?

Digging even deeper, WaPo transposed the words quoted as "responsibilities and expertise" from the memo's discussion of the senior subcommittee (the PC), which "considers policy", to the NSC proper, which "advises the President." The roles are not the same, and the more limited PC role does always require direct intel and unformed military involvement in the discussion itself.

Wag the Dog

 I just (re-)read Obama's memo organizing the NSC, and the new one. The status of the DNI and the CJCS is essentially unchanged (the caveat is because the new memo describes the Prez, VP, and Secretaries as attendees at Council meetings, where Obama had those as Council members, with only advisers described as attending).

Bannon and (apparently) Kushner are added, which is both highly atypical and not surprising, for the same reason: until now, purely political types were kept out to minimize "Wag the Dog" scenarios.

The most interesting omission is the former memo's requirement that "The NSC shall meet regularly and as required."

Monday, January 23, 2017

Alternate Facts, Day Four**

Spicer: "Finally, the president issued a memorandum outlining executive branch hiring. This memorandum counters through dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years. " (sic)
Non-alternate fact: the work force decreased under the 44th President, especially compared to population growth.
From, civilian employees, executive branch:
1981: 2.8 million
1989: 3.1 million
1993: 2.9 million
2001: 2.6 million
2009: 2.8 million
2014: 2.7 million *most recent data, 2016 estimate is also 2.7 million
CF, US population:
1981: 229 million
1989: 247 million
1993: 260 million
2001: 285 million
2009: 307 million
2014: 318 million
2016: 323 million
Population per Federal civilian employee
1981: 82
1989: 80
1993: 90
2001: 110
2009: 110
2014: 118
2016: 120

** Or Day One, depending on who's counting.